Oscar Garcia’s Brighton and Hove Albion took the opportunity to gain ground on the teams above them in the playoff places with another 1-0 home victory, this time at the expense of Brian McDermott’s Leeds United.
The Seagulls picked up where they left off against Doncaster on Saturday; they were sharp and direct from the first whistle.
January signing David Rodriguez found space down the left early on and when his cross appeared to strike the arm of Leeds right-back Tom Lees, the Brighton players implored Darren Deadman to award them with a penalty. The referee disagreed and only awarded Albion with a corner kick.
Solly March’s performance displayed the skill and energy that has forced him into Garcia’s starting line-up at the Amex this season. The 19-year-old skipped past both Lees and Byram down the left with a lovely bit of skill, but when it came to the final ball, he sent his cross over the crossbar. He is a wonderful talent with immense potential and he needs to make mistakes in order to improve.
The final product was the Seagull’s downfall throughout the first-half. They were solid in defence with Rohan Ince sitting in front of the back four, protecting his centre backs and allowing full backs Stephen Ward and Inigo Calderon to get forward. In attack, Albion’s interplay caused the Whites all sorts of problems but the final ball continued to let them down.
Albion came closest after half an hour. Leonardo Ulloa took the ball down on his chest and hit a volley which sent Paddy Kenny diving to his right. The Irishman thankfully watched as it passed his post and bulged the side netting.
McDermott’s team talk obviously had an effect as his side came out for the second half a lot sharper. Leeds penetrated and Alex Mowatt forced Tomasz Kuszczk into his first real save of the game; the 18-year-old midfielder cut in from the right and hit the target with a curling shot but failed to test the Polish keeper.
Leeds continued to pressure the Seagull’s defence and Ross McCormack forced Kuszczak into another save as the keeper had to palm away a free kick from the Scotland international.
David Rodriguez, Oscar Garcia’s January signing from Celta Vigo, grew into the game against Doncaster at the weekend and managed to cause Paul Dickov’s defence a few problems. Against Brian McDermott’s Leeds however, the Spaniard found the physicality of the game a little too much to handle, and Garcia brought him off for Kazenga LuaLua ten minutes into the second half.
The 23-year-old brought that necessary spark into the Albion machine with buckets of energy and, within seven minutes of coming on, the winger assisted the opening goal of the game. He picked the ball up half way down the left, shimmied right and left to lose Byram, and then accelerated up the wing to cross to the feet of Ulloa, who took a touch and guided his shot into the corner of Paddy Kenny’s net.
Solly March came close to doubling Albion’s lead soon after. LuaLua found space down the left again and cut the ball back to the waiting March, but the youngster failed to strike the ball cleanly and it bounced into Kenny’s gloves.
Whilst Rodriguez struggled to adapt to the physical English game, Rohan Ince appeared to thrive on it. As he continues to establish a place in Oscar Garcia’s starting eleven, he battled with the experienced Pugh and Austin in the Leeds midfield and came out on top. The comparisons with Patrick Viera may be premature but the youngster’s comfort on the ball, composure and ability to break-up opposition attacks has led to this magnitude of praise.
Leeds did continue to press but never truly looked likely to find an equaliser, and with the potential takeover of Massimo Cellino in the coming days, Brian McDermott’s job remains unstable. Considering the success that the 52-year-old manager had at Reading (taking the Royals to the Premier League) few would have blamed him for not returning to Elland Road after the debacle that went on last week. Tonight’s defeat cost Leeds a place in the table as they dropped to eleventh.
The win lifts Garcia’s side up to seventh in the SkyBet Championship; a point off of the playoff places. The Spaniard praised his teams defensive qualities in faltering Ross McCormack.
“It wasn’t easy in front of one of the best players in the league”, Garcia said after the game”
The one thing his side has struggled with throughout this season has been to close out games, despite keeping the ball out at one end, they have struggled to put games to bed at the other.
“We need to be a little more clinical in front of goal, if not we will finish all the games a little bit nervous with the possibility of the equaliser.”
Brighton: Kuszczak, Calderon, Upson, Greer, Ward, Ince, Stephens, March (Buckley 76), Orlandi, Rodriguez (LuaLua 56), Ulloa (Obika 80)
Subs not used: Brezovan, Dunk, Forster-Caskey, Lopez
Goals: Ulloa 63
Leeds: Kenny, Lees, Pearce, Warnock, Austin, Pugh (Smith 68), Byram, Murphy, Mowatt (Hunt 76), Kebe, McCormack
Subs not used: Cairns, Peltier, Brown, Tonge, Wooton
Booked: Murphy, Warnock
Man of the Match: Rohan Ince
Written by Tom Roddy